Saturday, September 24 – A relaxing morning, lunch at the African Galleria and a jaunt to the airport…

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With the first three weeks, or the first half, of this season’s neurology clinic now complete, it was time to transition the two teams of residents. The second team was already en route, having left from Philadelphia last night on their long flight to Doha and then their long layover prior to boarding their second flight at midnight, arriving at Kilimanjaro International Airport Sunday morning. These were exactly the same flights that we had taken three weeks ago coming here and it is really a fairly long haul even flying on one of the best airlines (all economy, mind you).

As I had mentioned previously, it had been the decision of the current group that this would be a quiet morning at the house prior to our departure for the airport, though they had somehow still decided to get up earlier than I had expected so they could exercise, Moira (aka gazelle) doing her usual morning run and Alana and Alex something else that was at least energetic enough for Alex to complain about his “gluts” afterwards. My plan had been to continue working on the blog and some other necessary work and to definitely NOT do any exercise this morning 😀

Lunch at the African Galleria with Prosper and the departing residents

Doing a switch over of the rooms on the weekend, though mundane, did present a few logistical issues that were slightly more than insignificant. For whatever reason, our trash hadn’t been emptied yesterday and, with all the packing and moving, it was overflowing onto the flow and not a pretty sight. We have an incinerator here at FAME, so all the composting goes into a 5-gallon bucket with lid and all the trash into another container. The houses are also not insect-proof and, in fact, seem at times to be more havens for bugs. There are screens on the windows that are open, but the outside doors are far from airtight letting most of the creepy crawly critters easy access.

The tarantula that decided to come in our volunteer house several years ago was a bit on the exciting side for Dr. Joyce (lab Joyce) as we were staying in the same house at the time. I thought I had seen some movement out of the corner of my eye and that it was likely a mouse or a gecko, but it turned out to be a very, very large hairy spider and not something that Joyce was thrilled about. I grabbed a paper bag to collect it in, but it ran under the bookcase and required a bit more finagling to coax it out from under before collecting it up and depositing it outside. Frank’s story of perhaps ten or so years ago of a pit viper in his pantry would have raised just a bit more concern on my part as well, but thankfully I haven’t seen one of those on campus yet.

Our babies CT scan

Meanwhile, housekeeping here usually prepares the rooms for the incoming volunteers which, if the volunteer is coming on the weekend such as this time, would be taken care of on the Friday before. But the outgoing residents were staying in their rooms on Friday night and housekeeping doesn’t work on the weekends. The trash posed no issue for Prosper just had someone from maintenance come and empty it, but I don’t think they were interested in changing the sheets and towels and cleaning the rooms. The plan would be that housekeeping would leave us fresh sheets and towels on Friday and then we would take care of changing over the linens ourselves. That all seemed like a pretty simple solution to a simple problem.

The morning seemed to drag on a bit as none of us really knew what to do with all that extra time on our hands. It certainly was nice to sit and relax, though I think everyone was ready to get the show on the road given their upcoming flights that evening. They weren’t flying until 9:30 pm and didn’t really have to get there until 2-3 hours prior to their flight, but I had the constraint of not wanting to drive on the treacherous highway back from the airport in the dark. My plan had been to try and get them there at 5 pm which would allow me enough light to get back to Arusha. Prosper, whose family lives in Moshi, which is on the far side of the airport, was going to travel with us and catch a bus from the airport junction once we were there so he could see his kids tonight and then catch a ride back with us tomorrow.

The second team arriving in Doha before their departure for Kilimanjaro

We packed Turtle with everyone’s luggage, once again fitting everything into the boot like playing a game of Tetris. Once completely loaded and including Prosper, we were on our way down the road to Manyara to stop for lunch at the Galleria for those wonderful cheese samosas that are so scrumptious, though there seemed to be a great deal more ordered from the menu than I had anticipated. Ironically, Susan, Mary Ann and Alicia had already beat us there for lunch and had taken a taxi – if we had known, they could have just as easily ridden with us and taken a taxi home. Lunch was really delicious and one of the new dishes that I had never tried before, the grilled paneer with beets, was simply out of this world and will absolutely be on my list of things to order there in the future.

At some point during the drive, we began to receive calls regarding the young baby who had been having seizures all along, notifying us that he was again seizing. There were still questions about whether the baby should be transferred to KCMC, though I was certain that they would not have anything to offer the baby other than what we were doing. We had more than half a dozen pediatric neurologists on the case, several of who were epileptologists and this was probably more clinical knowledge than was present in all of East Africa, let alone Tanzania. We decided to do a CT scan on the baby just to reassure everyone that there wasn’t any acute going on and, sure enough, the scan didn’t show us any surprises. After extensive consultation throughout the group, we added topiramate to the babies medication regimen and it eventually stopped seizing and began to wake up.

Pouting residents on the floor at the Kili airport – boo hoo

We started our long journey back to Arusha after lunch, first descending the escarpment into Mto wa Mbu, then passing the “scene of the crime” from Thursday at the Maasai Market with all of us cringing as we drove by, and then on to Makuyuni which lays at the junction with the main highway traveling to Tarangire to the right and Arusha to the left. Given that it is the dry season now, the landscape was brown and incredibly arid as opposed the green grass of the wet season, and huge dust devils arose in the distance, visible every several miles that we traveled. Mt. Meru, standing at 15,000 feet, rose in front of us, though was mostly covered by clouds, obscuring all but the lower slopes feeding down into Arushatown and its surrounding suburbs.

We had one last bit of shopping to do as everyone wanted to stop at the Shanga Shop on our way to the airport. The Shanga Shop is located at the Arusha Coffee Lodge near the Arusha airport and has lots of artistic blown glass and textiles that are all made by workers with disabilities through a non-profit that had been created a number of years ago. I think everyone found a little something that would still fit in their luggage and once we were done, we were back on the road, taking the bypass around Arusha to avoid the horrible traffic that exists in the center of town. The bypass was completed about 4 years ago and allows one to completely avoid the hustle bustle of the city center, though now with the expansion and construction that is occurring along the bypass, it is creating its own congestion. Adding to that the fact that the speed limit varies between 50 and 80 kph intermittently on the bypass with the traffic police now cracking down with every chance possible, they somehow clocked me driving 66 kph on a downhill stretch of road where it was a 50 kph limit. The fine isn’t necessarily onerous, only 30,000 Tsh, or about $13, but it was the fact that I have been trying my hardest to always stay within the limit, knowing that they are looking for speeding.

Now happy residents (and one snarky resident) with food at the Kili airport

We arrived at the airport at around 5:15 pm after dropping off Prosper at the junction for his trip to Moshi by bus, which wasn’t bad planning considering we had traveled all the way from Karatu, had lunch, shopped at Shanga shop, gotten a ticket, and fought the traffic on the Moshi road. We said our goodbyes and the three travelers made their way towards security to enter the airport and check in for their flight. Shortly thereafter, I received a text with them pouting while sitting on the floor of the airport, so I could only presume that the ticket counter hadn’t yet opened for them to check in, meaning that they couldn’t yet make it to the airport lounge. I had suspected that this might happen, though I really had no choice as it was already later than I had anticipated driving home and, sure enough, the last 20 minutes of my drive was with very poor visibility on the incredibly dark roads and every vehicle seeming to have misaligned headlights shining right into my eyes. Finally arriving to the Temba’s, I found their two older boys, Lenox and Lee, still home from school, but leaving in the morning. It is always great to see them as I’ve watched them grow into fine young men over the last 12 years. I was home at last as this and FAME have become my Tanzanian homes and both, my Tanzanian families.

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